David Harris is a very busy man.
I spoke to him on one of those evenings that seemed to get dark surprisingly early, catching him just as he was considering a trip to the gym. After just getting back into Sydney that morning from Singapore, where he’s been playing Fiyero in the touring cast of Wicked. On half an hour’s sleep. On the day before his holiday, before he re-joins the Wicked cast in Korea… after which he’ll be back in Australia to start rehearsals for the role of Emmett in Legally Blonde.
If that overwhelmed you too, you’re right there with me and I don’t know how he does it either, but even on no sleep and with an agenda beckoning, David was warm, friendly, and happy to speak to AussieTheatre.
Possibly best known for his role as Chris in Miss Saigon, he’s worked on The Boy From Oz and Gutenberg! The Musical!. He’s also released two solo albums. Now there’s Fiyero, the lovable rogue of a prince in the smash-hit Wicked, and with Legally Blonde coming up next and set to open at the Lyric Theatre in October, his star is currently a very bright one.
And something tells me he likes being busy. “The Singapore season’s been great!” he enthuses. “It was five months, with one month’s hiatus before we hit Seoul, and then I come back to start rehearsals for Legally Blonde.”
Legally Blonde is one of the most highly anticipated shows of the year, and since it was announced fans have been eager to hear who would be in the principal cast. After the announcement was delayed due to a parliamentary spill, it felt like a long wait to find out who our Elle and Emmett and Warner would be.
So, naturally, I asked David if his audition process was as long as the wait for casting felt.
“It was very quick,” he said, “Possibly the shortest audition process I’ve ever been through. I flew to Melbourne from Adelaide where I was doing Wicked and we put it down on tape that afternoon. And it was almost – this is almost a really good story because this was almost a one day audition. But when we put it all on tape apparently the light was bad and we had to film it again a couple of weeks later. But it was really quick.”
“It’s a good group,” he added of his Legally Blonde co-stars. “It’s a bunch of friends… more like fun than work.”
The show a lot of fun, too, or as David says, “a barrel of fun.” Based on the 2001 movie of the same name, the story of party-girl turned law-student Elle Woods is fun and funny, but also touching and a little bit empowering.
According to David, the musical is true to these themes. “It’s high camp, and it’s a lot of fun and it’s got a lot of energy, but there are also some nice tender moment. It’s not just fairy-floss and candy. By the end the audience really care for and are attached to the characters, and I think that’s really important to talk about.
“It’s a truthful story.”
Connecting with the audience is important to David, as is the truthfulness of live performance. He told me about recording his last album, At This Stage, just before moving onto the Singapore season of Wicked.
“It has a bigger sound and a bigger instrumentation. It’s shamelessly the traditional music theatre album.”
And he wanted to capture that thrill of live performance even in a studio environment. “I love the immediacy of the audience and the live factor of performance… I love that element… and I love the studio that it’s all about the music, the story, and the voice.
“But the beauty and the hazard of recording is that you can play around with it too much when you try to make it polished. What I tried to do is – I really like when you’re at a live performance and you hear the rawness in someone’s voice, maybe those little flaws that make it real and unique. I had to step away from it to keep that element.
“Sometimes I’ll listen to it and I hear things and think – ohhh – but I think I like it better that way. It feels more like live theatre.”
And why, speaking of live theatre, does David think people should see Legally Blonde?
“To escape the world, have fun, and be moved. To have some pure entertainment.”
Legally Blonde will be at the Lyric Theatre in Sydney from 5 October. For tickets and more information visit legallyblonde.com.au/